'Rescue Ink’ Launches Boldly Vs. Broadcast Pitbulls

National Geographic Channel launched a new series — Rescue Ink Unleashed — Friday night (Sept. 25), amid the fall flurry of broadcast-network premieres. Fortunately, the 10 p.m. debut did have a strong lead-in from a new episode of The Dog Whisperer.

A fitting and fortunate lead-in, as the Rescue Ink troupe deals with many dogs, and these men and their Harleys are large enough that they don’t need to do much more than whisper to get their point across.

Their point: Don’t abuse animals. Or we will come rescue them.

On Wednesday night, Nat Geo threw a launch party for the show and the Long Island, N.Y.-based animal-welfare organization at a nightclub in midtown Manhattan. Network general manager Steve Schiffman said at the event that it was a bit daunting to kick off a new series in such a competitive TV environment — but it’s also a time when lots of people are tuning in, and the show should benefit from good press.

“The media love these guys,” Schiffman said, on stage with the show’s heavily muscled and tattooed (all but Angel) heroes. “They’re rock stars. Keep it up!”

Friends from weight rooms and autobody shops, the members of Rescue Ink — including Batso, Eric, Big Ant, G, Joe Panz, Johnny O., Des the Cat Man and “den mother” Mary Fayet — share a love of animals. They were galvanized into action in 2007 after a pitbull terrier on Long Island was found tied to a tree and burned to death.

In the premiere episode, screened at the party, their exploits include extracting three hungry pitbulls from a locked Bronx apartment after their owner, an Iraq veteran, was beaten and hospitalized; confronting a man accused by neighbors of shooting a pellet gun at feral cats in his yard; and, hilariously, chasing chickens that were let loose in a Queens neighborhood. It got a bit easier after they realized chickens can fly straight up.

The Wire, impressed by their work, even bought a T-shirt from Rescue Ink volunteers (available from Rescueink.org) at the party. Slogan: “Abusers are losers.”

Schiffman said the network ordered six episodes of the National Geographic-produced show, with options to add more in a hurry.

Despite the fall competition, he said, “We’re preparing as if this is going to be a hit.”

MTV’s 'Valemont’ Targets 3 Screens

MTV will continue testing multi-platform show distribution this week when it debuts a short-form limited series, Valemont, on MTV, MTV.com and Verizon Wireless’s V Cast mobile platform.

For six weeks beginning Sept. 29, a two-and-a-half-minute episode from the series — which follows a high school girl looking for clues about her brother’s mysterious disappearance from the prestigious Valemont College — will appear ahead of The Hills and after The City. After the first 12 episodes run on MTV, the remaining 23 Valemont episodes will premiere weekly on MTV.com and series sponsor Verizon Wireless’s V Cast.

Short-form MTV music series $5 Cover had a similar cable-online play in May. MTV plans a second season of that show, which tracks up-and-coming musical acts in Memphis. It is unclear whether that series will live on MTV, MTV.com or both, network officials say.

MTV also launches an unusual animated show Monday (Sept. 28) from Animax Entertainment, founded by SCTV’s Dave Thomas.

Popzilla, a Monday-Thursday (6:30 p.m.) sketch comedy series, spoofs celebrity news from the previous week. It’s kind of a cross between the E!’s The Daily Ten and Comedy Central’s South Park. Flash animation enables the quick turnaround needed to keep it all topical. Look for sketches lampooning the Jonas Brothers, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (pictured), and President Obama (faking his own death) in viral locations near you.

Chavez No Fan Of 'Family Guy’

Speaking of animation, looks like Family Guy won’t be nominated for the Venezuelan version of an Emmy anytime soon.

According to numerous reports last week, the Venezuelan government was ramping up its campaign against the off-Fox show. Justice minister Tareck El Aissami reportedly said that cable channels that continue to carry the show would be fined by Venezuela’s answer to the Federal Communications Commission. Apparently, the minister is upset over a recent episode with a marijuana story-line.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has cracked down on radio and TV stations generally in recent weeks, and is said to be ready to do the same with cable, including quotas for in-country produced content, according to the Associated Press.

No word on whether there might be a crackdown on Family Guy in its home market, but complaints about the show to the FCC are in the six figures, according to the Mississippi-based American Family Association.